The Second Seller Problem or The Value of Monitors

When two people who haven’t worked much with each other first go on a sales call together, one often dominates the conversation with the prospective client. When two people go on a sales call together and one is much senior to the other, the senior one tends to do most the talking. Anyone who sells with Maxwell Flushover (name changed—actually, this could be one of a dozen different people I know) learns that he will do most talking. In cases like these, what is the second seller to do?

She (or he) has several options:

1> Sit silently trying to look wise and interested. This may be good for starters, but if it goes on too long, the client may wonder why she is there.

2> Take notes. Good, but if it is all she does, the client may perceive her as junior help.

3> Fight with the colleague for airspace. This will alienate both the client and the colleague.

4> Take the role of monitor, carefully watching and listening to the client for visual or verbal cues that her colleague may miss during the exchange. When she sees one she will insert a question, like:

  • I sense that you aren’t comfortable with that idea. Is there something you could share with us?
  • You said there were three reasons you want to do this. Did we miss the third one?

It is, of course, this last alternative that I am advocating. As anyone with a lot of selling experience knows, a monitor can contribute hugely to a sales meeting. Every firm should have an understanding that anyone not speaking goes immediately into monitor mode. Everyone should know that the monitor will speak seldom, but when she does, everyone else backs off immediately.A good monitor can make the difference between winning and losing. The furrowed brow of the General Counsel, unnoticed by the first seller who is speaking to the CEO, may veil a concern that will go unspoken until later, unless an observant monitor draws him out. And the concern only voiced after you leave the room is the most hurtful to your cause.

Establishing the monitor’s role as an important one in all sales meetings counters the implicit and insidious bias that important people talk during sales meetings, while others listen. The job can be done by the most senior person on the team—and should be whenever someone else is speaking. Indeed, to instill the role in a firm, senior people must model it. And they must complement those who have effectively monitored their exchanges with a client.

There are no second sellers.

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2 Responses to “The Second Seller Problem or The Value of Monitors”

  1. Chris Zdunich Says:

    Ford, I agree completely with everything you said. The problem is if the monitor does not have the eq, ability, skillset or training to identify the visual or verbal cues.

  2. Ford Harding Says:


    Good point. Some education needs to be done in that area. Some people have a knack for it, but many will need some guidance.

    Ford Harding

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